Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.



Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

Menu Search

Mágj Lv 1VIII (Mág 1)

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Máguss saga jarls 1 (Mágus jarl, verses 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 599.

Mágus jarlverses

Ek hefi vísendi         víst í brjósti
meiri miklu,         en menn vita.
Sé ek, hvar húkir         hirð á bekkjum,
hjartadeigir,         ef herja skal.

Ek hefi víst miklu meiri vísendi í brjósti, en menn vita. Ek sé, hvar hirð húkir á bekkjum, hjartadeigir, ef skal herja.

I have certainly much more knowledge in my breast than people know. I see where the retinue cowers on the benches, men soft of heart, if there should be any fighting.

Mss: 152(174vb), 590aˣ(25v), 58ˣ(320r), papp25ˣ(83v) (Mág)

Readings: [1] hefi: hef 590aˣ, 58ˣ    [3] meiri miklu: so 590aˣ, miklu meiri with meiri corrected by scribe from location between vísendi and víst to after miklu 152, miklu meiri 58ˣ, papp25ˣ    [4] vita: viti 58ˣ, papp25ˣ    [7] ‑deigir: deig 590aˣ, 58ˣ, papp25ˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 461, Skj BII, 493, Skald II, 269; Mág 1858, 71, Mág 1963, 132, 442 (Mág).

Context: This and the following two fornyrðislag stanzas are all spoken by Mágus jarl disguised as an old man, Skeljakarl ‘Shell-man’, so named because his clothing is covered with shells. The prose text of the younger recension introduces the stanzas with a detailed description of the man’s appearance and behaviour. He comes before the king and his retinue saying that he is capable of spásǫgur ‘prophecies’. He is on crutches and carries two staves, one of which he places on the floor in front of him. He strokes his hair and combs his beard, so that it spreads over his chest, and shakes his head several times, making a clattering sound, at which the retinue laughs. He then takes a second stave and passes it in front of his eyes, leaps like a cat from an outer to an inner bench and waves the second stave over the men’s heads, speaking a stanza in a low voice.

Notes: [All]: The longer recension of Mág gives a lot more detailed description of Mágus’ behaviour and equipment than the shorter recension does (cf. Mág 1884, 21-2). All three stanzas qualify as níðvísur ‘insult-stanzas’, intended to defame the retinue of the ruler, Karl, and to draw his attention in particular to the deviousness and malevolence of the men upon whose advice he relies. — [5-6]: See Note to Mág 2/1-2. — [5] húkir ‘cowers’: The verb húka lit. ‘squat’ has connotations of cowardliness and lack of manly, upright behaviour, similar to heykjask ‘bend, cower down’. — [7] hjartadeigir ‘men soft of heart’: Considered, with Skj B and Skald, as a cpd adj. used substantivally, the second element of which is deigr lit. ‘kneadable, doughy’, and by extension ‘soft, damp, cowardly’. The cpd implies cowardice on the part of the hirð ‘retinue’, mentioned in l. 6. The m. nom. pl. adj. ‑deigir in 152 does not agree with hirð, and must be assumed to be in apposition to it, meaning ‘men soft of heart’, whereas the other mss read deig, agreeing with hirð f. nom. sg. That reading is unmetrical, however.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Mág 1858 = Gunnlaugur Þórðarson, ed. 1858. Bragða-Mágus saga með tilheyrendi þáttum. Copenhagen: Páll Sveinsson.
  5. Mág 1884 = ‘Mágus saga jarls’, in Cederschiöld 1884, pp. lxxx-ccccviii, 1-42.
  6. Mág 1963 = Dodsworth, John Brian, ed. 1963. ‘Mágus saga jarls, edited with complete variants from the pre-Reformation manuscripts’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Cambridge.
  7. Internal references
  8. 2017, ‘ Unattributed, Máguss saga jarls’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 596. <> (accessed 20 September 2021)
  9. Not published: do not cite (MágjVIII)
  10. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Máguss saga jarls 2 (Mágus jarl, verses 2)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 600.

Log in

This service is only available to members of the relevant projects, and to purchasers of the skaldic volumes published by Brepols.
This service uses cookies. By logging in you agree to the use of cookies on your browser.


Stanza/chapter/text segment

Use the buttons at the top of the page to navigate between stanzas in a poem.

Information tab

Interactive tab

The text and translation are given here, with buttons to toggle whether the text is shown in the verse order or prose word order. Clicking on indiviudal words gives dictionary links, variant readings, kennings and notes, where relevant.

Full text tab

This is the text of the edition in a similar format to how the edition appears in the printed volumes.

Chapter/text segment

This view is also used for chapters and other text segments. Not all the headings shown are relevant to such sections.